2008-05-03 / News

Two decisions made; special meetings set for two more

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - It didn't take Walnut Township Trustees long to address two proposed changes to the township zoning ordinance.

Four individual public hearings, starting at 5 p.m., were scheduled before the trustees' regular April 22 meeting. First up was an amendment to rezone all R-1 LF properties along North Bank Road, West Bank Drive, Sellers Drive and Shepard Avenue to R-2 LF. The township zoning commission unanimously recommended the change.

R-1 only allows single family homes, zoning inspector Ralph Reeb explained to trustees. Apartments can only be rented to family members.

He said 26 homes on North Bank have dual meters which indicates that they are violating the single-family requirement. The proposed change, which would permit two-family residences, would make the area consistent with the rest of the township's lakefront property, Reeb said.

The proposed change didn't sit well with some members of the West Bank Homeowners' Association. "I don't want to see rentals as my neighbors," one said. Another added, "We're not the same as North Bank. We're separate and we should be treated that way."

One West Bank resident said the zoning commission is being lazy by addressing violations by changing the rules.

Reeb was surprised by the opposition. He agreed West Bank is unique.

"Maybe we didn't look at it all the way," Reeb added. "Maybe we can break off North Bank."

Trustees heard the West Bank residents loud and clear. It takes an unanimous decision for trustees to modify or reject the zoning commission's recommendation. Trustees unanimously rejected the recommendation, sending the issue back to the zoning commission. Reeb promised to involve West Bank residents in any future discussions.

No one commented on a zoning commission recommendation to remove the word "compounding" from the list of permitted uses in a I-1 Light Industrial District. Likewise, no one objected to the removal of "sanitary landfill"from the list of conditional uses in an I-2 General Industsrial District.

Reeb said "compounding" could be considered as compacting or crushing which could be misconstrued with a landfill.The discovery of sanitary landfill as a conditional use was a "red flag," he added.

During their regular meeting, trustees unanimously approved the two changes.

The third hearing, on a recommendation that an approximately 66 acre site, west of Ohio 37, be rezoned from I-1 to I-2, was postponed at the request of the applicant. Owner Jerry Mock's attorney said the postponement was requested to modify the required legal publication which would be done at the applicant's expense.

Mock's son, Rusty, operates a stone yard, recycling business and roll-off container business on the site. Reeb explained, at the zoning commission's March 4 public hearing, that the rezone is being proposed "to correct the mistake the township made in the first place." Mock also needs I-2 zoning for three additional business he hopes to bring to the site.

Trustees will make a decision on the commission's recommendation for the change at a special meeting set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 6 in the township offices.

The final hearing addressed the commission's unanimous recommendation that an approximate 289 acre tract owned by Licking-FairfieldCorporation be rezoned from Rural Residential to I-2. Ed Parrish, sole owners of Licking-Fairfield,said he was solicited by Walnut Township Trustees for industrial zoning on this site several years ago and again this January. The tract is on both sides of Millersport Road with frontage both on Ohio 79 and Ohio 37. Parrish's residence is on the tract.

"There is no plan to build anything…" Parrish told trustees. "This is a potential use situation."

Neighbor John Harker said I-2 zoning basically allows anything to be built there. "It will decrease the value of all property approximate to it," He suggested that Walnut Township might have some liability if property values are negatively affected.

"I would like to see Mr. Parrish bring someone in," Harker said. "All we are saying now is 'no' to houses."

Robert Slater II asked about the plan. "Whatever happens there, it needs to look good," he said.

Lieb's Island resident Steve Hall told trustees that the regional planning commission's recommendation that the request be denied "has to tell you something."

In his response, Parrish said commercial property is a net benefit to the tax base. He added that it is not a given that commercial development will drive down property values.

"No one wants to see a nuisance in our township," he added. Parrish noted that businesses are generally more closely watched by regulators than residential and agricultural settings.

He said at some point the township will have more new residents than the "old guard," which can make it difficultto get things done. Parrish encouraged trustees to setaside an area so the township has an area where it can do things.

Trustees later decided to table their discussion on Parrish's application. They have set a special meeting for 8 a.m. on Monday, May 12 to meet the 20-day deadline for a decision. That meeting will be in the township offices.

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